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Huguenots(hyo͞o`gənŏts), French Protestants, followers of John CalvinCalvin, John,
1509–64, French Protestant theologian of the Reformation, b. Noyon, Picardy. Early Life
Calvin early prepared for an ecclesiastical career; from 1523 to 1528 he studied in Paris.
..... Click the link for more information. . The term is derived from the German Eidgenossen, meaning sworn companions or confederates.
Prior to Calvin's publication in 1536 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a reform movement already existed in France. Despite persecution, the movement grew. Under King Henry II reprisals became more severe. Nevertheless, in 1559, the first French national synod was held, and a Presbyterian church modeled on Calvin's reform in Geneva was founded. The adherence of a large number of the nobility to the movement gave it political meaning and added fuel to persecution.
Wars of Religion and the Edict of Nantes
The conspiracy of Amboise (1560; see Amboise, conspiracy ofAmboise, conspiracy of,
1560, plot of the Huguenots (French Protestants) and the house of Bourbon to usurp the power of the Guise family, which virtually ruled France during the reign of the young Francis II.
..... Click the link for more information. ) during the reign of King Francis IIFrancis II,
1544–60, king of France (1559–60), son of King Henry II and Catherine de' Medici. He married (1558) Mary Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart), and during his brief reign the government was in the hands of her uncles, François and Charles de Guise.
..... Click the link for more information. inflamed both Roman Catholic and Protestant sentiment. This, along with political rivalry, particularly among the BourbonsBourbon
, European royal family, originally of France; a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. One branch of the Bourbons occupies the modern Spanish throne, and other branches ruled the Two Sicilies and Parma.
..... Click the link for more information. and the GuisesGuise
, influential ducal family of France. The First Duke of Guise
The family was founded as a cadet branch of the ruling house of Lorraine by Claude de Lorraine, 1st duc de Guise, 1496–1550, who received the French fiefs of his father, René II, duke
..... Click the link for more information. , precipitated the Wars of Religion (1562–98; see Religion, Wars ofReligion, Wars of,
1562–98, series of civil wars in France, also known as the Huguenot Wars.
The immediate issue was the French Protestants' struggle for freedom of worship and the right of establishment (see Huguenots).
..... Click the link for more information. ). Despite such heavy blows to the Huguenots as the massacre of Saint Bartholomew's DaySaint Bartholomew's Day, massacre of,
murder of French Protestants, or Huguenots, that began in Paris on Aug. 24, 1572. It was preceded, on Aug. 22, by an attempt, ordered by Catherine de' Medici, on the life of the Huguenot leader Admiral Coligny.
..... Click the link for more information. (1572), the formation of the Catholic League (see LeagueLeague
or Holy League,
in French history, organization of Roman Catholics, aimed at the suppression of Protestantism and Protestant political influence in France.
..... Click the link for more information. ), and the intervention of Spain (1589–98) against the Protestant heir to the throne, the Bourbon Henry IVHenry IV,
1553–1610, king of France (1589–1610) and, as Henry III, of Navarre (1572–1610), son of Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d'Albret; first of the Bourbon kings of France.
..... Click the link for more information. , the Protestants were ultimately victorious. Their success was due largely to their unity under such admirable leaders as Louis I de Condé (see under CondéCondé
, family name of a cadet branch of the French royal house of Bourbon. The name was first borne by Louis I de Bourbon, prince de Condé, 1530–69, Protestant leader and general.
..... Click the link for more information. , family), Gaspard de ColignyColigny, Gaspard de Châtillon, comte de
, 1519–72, French Protestant leader. A nephew of Anne, duc de Montmorency, he came to the French court at an early age.
..... Click the link for more information. , Jeanne d'AlbretJeanne d'Albret
, 1528–72, queen of Navarre (1555–72), daughter of Henri d'Albret and Margaret of Navarre, and mother of King Henry IV of France (Henry III of Navarre). She became queen of Navarre on her father's death.
..... Click the link for more information. , and her son, Henry IV.
In 1598, Henry IV, by issuing the Edict of Nantes (see Nantes, Edict ofNantes, Edict of,
1598, decree promulgated at Nantes by King Henry IV to restore internal peace in France, which had been torn by the Wars of Religion; the edict defined the rights of the French Protestants (see Huguenots).
..... Click the link for more information. ), established Protestantism in 200 towns, proclaimed freedom of worship, and allowed substantial political independence. During the next 50 years, more and more skilled artisans and members of the bourgeoisie became Huguenots, who thus constituted one of the most industrious and economically advanced elements in French society.
In the reign of King Louis XIII, Cardinal RichelieuRichelieu, Armand Jean du Plessis, duc de
(Cardinal Richelieu) , 1585–1642, French prelate and statesman, chief minister of King Louis XIII, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.
..... Click the link for more information. decided to suppress Protestant political privileges. An uprising (1621–22) against the introduction of Catholicism in Béarn was put down by Richelieu, and the Protestants lost all the strongholds given to them under the Edict of Nantes, except Montauban and La Rochelle. Led by Henri de RohanRohan, Henri, duc de
, 1579–1638, French Protestant general; son-in-law of the duc de Sully. A leader of the Huguenots, Rohan took up arms against the French government in 1621–22 as a consequence of the reestablishment of Roman Catholicism in Béarn.
..... Click the link for more information. and Benjamin de SoubiseSoubise, Benjamin de Rohan, seigneur de
, 1583–1642, French Protestant general. He fought under Maurice of Nassau in the Netherlands and subsequently shared the leadership of the Huguenots with his brother, Henri, duc de Rohan.
..... Click the link for more information. , the Huguenots revolted again in 1625 and in 1627. La Rochelle was captured (1628) by Richelieu after a 14-month siege, during which King Charles I of England attempted to send some aid to the Protestant defenders. The Peace of Alais (1629) stripped the Huguenots of all political power but assured them of continued religious tolerance.
Cardinal Mazarin continued Richelieu's policy, but King Louis XIV, urged by the French Catholic clergy, moved to suppress the dissident religion. Conversion was encouraged; the Edict of Nantes was interpreted in the strictest way possible; and dragoons were quartered in the homes of Huguenots (see dragonnadesdragonnades
, name given to a form of persecution of French Protestants, or Huguenots, before and after the revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes (see Nantes, Edict of) by Louis XIV.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Finally, in 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked.
This act had disastrous results. Entire provinces were depopulated as countless Huguenots fled to England, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and America. The only important fragment of Huguenots left in France was in the Cévennes, where the war of the CamisardsCamisards
, Protestant peasants of the Cévennes region of France who in 1702 rebelled against the persecutions that followed the revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes (see Nantes, Edict of).
..... Click the link for more information. (1702–10) broke out. In 1787, Louis XVI allowed the Huguenots tolerance, and in Dec., 1789, the revolutionary National Assembly restored their civil rights. Full religious freedom was not attained until church and state were separated in 1905.
See history by H. M. Baird (6 vol., 1879–95); G. A. Rothrock, The Huguenots (1979); N. M. Sutherland, The Huguenot Struggle for Recognition (1980); R. D. Gwynn, Huguenot Heritage (1985); G. Treasure, The Huguenots (2013).
Calvinists in France in the 16th to 18th centuries. The social composition of the Huguenots was mixed. It included the urban popular masses, who were opposed to feudal and incipient capitalist exploitation, part of the hereditary nobility and feudal aristocracy, and the urban upper strata (mainly from cities in the outlying southern and western provinces) that resisted the centralization caused by absolutism.
The Huguenots’ struggle with the Catholics took the form of the so-called religious wars of the 16th century, at the end of which the Huguenots received religious liberty. (Catholicism, however, remaining the dominant religion.) The attitude of the state toward the Huguenots changed several times in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it was only the aftermath of the Great French Revolution that accorded the Huguenots equal rights with Catholics.
REFERENCESLuchitskii. I. Feodal’naia aristokratiia i kal’vinisty vo Frantsii, part I. Kiev. 1871.
Viénot, J. Histoire de la Réforme française. . ., vols. 1–2. Paris, 1926–34.
Zoff. O. Die Hugenotten. . . . Weimar, 1949.
Mours, S. Les Églises réformées en France. Paris, 1958.